McCormack Speaks

Center for Social Policy: Students Inspiring Optimism


by Susan Crandall, Director, Center for Social Policy

Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

image of college students

It is said that history repeats itself, but who knew it would do so all at once? Daily living is like walking into a control room where screens are blaring a century worth of news simultaneously: growing income inequality, the rise of Nazism, the threat of nuclear war, massive civil unrest, presidential abuse of power, and so on—with destructive natural disasters occurring in rapid succession.

My secret to finding hope during these times? Working with, and learning from, our Center for Social Policy students, whom I count on for a fresh perspective, insightful analysis, and new directions leading to a much brighter future. Let me introduce you to a few of them:

Vishakha Agarwal is a second year doctoral student in public policy at the McCormack Graduate School, interested in improving access and quality of education for low-income students. One of our Werby interns, she is analyzing data on cliff effects, generating solutions so that increases in earnings from work do not cause low-income families to lose essential benefits like housing and childcare.

Vishakha’s colleague, fellow Werby Intern Jason Wright, is also a second year doctoral student in public policy. He is interested in the politics of poverty and the application of systems thinking to social policy. Jason is identifying policy levers to resolve cliff effects, which we will provide to our On Solid Ground coalition partners, who advocate for housing stability and economic mobility.

Rolando DelVillar supports economic mobility through his work on the Commonwealth Workforce Coalition, which builds the capacity of job training providers across the state to help unemployed workers access better careers. A senior in the College of Management studying leadership and organizational change, Rolando was selected to participate in the Mayor’s Symposium on Housing for a Changing City (where our colleague, Public Policy Professor Michael Johnson will be facilitating). There Rolando will collaborate with UMass Boston students to generate new approaches to improve housing for low-income communities, which will be shared with elected officials.

Bianca Ortiz-Wythe is a second year doctoral student in public policy, researching the creative economy in Roxbury. She’s excited about the project because it amplifies youth voices from the community, which often go unheard when conversations of equitable development arise. Her research interests include rural poverty, the politics of poverty reduction, and gender and ethnic minority issues. She would like to gain experience as a policymaker and run for public office.

Learn more about the Werby Internship program which helps students contribute their gifts to the Center for Social Policy, and to create a better future for all families.


The Center for Social Policy strives to reshape poverty policy by connecting research, evaluation, and communities with lived experiences in Boston and beyond.

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